Review: My Bloody Valentine – m b v
Published on February 4th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
As you may have heard, My Bloody Valentine’s long-awaited third album arrived suddenly and unexpectedly this weekend – well, Kevin Shields had scattered the odd warning hither and thither, but who was going to take him at his word on that front after all this time? Even ‘long-awaited’ doesn’t seem to quite cut it in this instance. Chinese Democracy was long-awaited – m b v, as we may now know it, has just been one decades-long tease for discerning consumers of vast, hallucinatory noise.
It’s been long enough now not to get bogged down in the back story, so let’s just dive straight into the music itself. First off, you might notice that every single track here bears a title that could very conceivably have been used by MBV in the past, so when opener “She Found Now” enters the fray with whirring, chugging layers of dreamy dissonance, there is an element of concern that we are about to be subjected to Loveless: The Shameless Rehashing Of. Strip it to its core, though, and there’s a plaintive lilt to Shields’s static, airy vocal that works to emphasise the verging-on-pop nature of its chord changes. They’re back, and this time they’re ‘songier’ (if you’ll permit Rocksucker such coining).
“Only Tomorrow” – see? – sees Bilinda Butcher’s vocals more or less complete the axis of instantly recognisable MBV hallmarks on display – and yet in the midst of all those familiar ingredients in timeless tandem there lies a progression that you could almost imagine strumming on an acoustic were it not plied with those unmistakable textures. Furthermore it is flippin’ majestic, especially when Butcher’s voice shoots off heavenwards on a “whooooooOOOOP!”, and it builds into such an awe-inspiring climax that it’s easy to overlook the laid-back swing to Colm Ó Cíosóig’s drums, which in isolation would remind of Blur’s “Oily Water”.
So far, m b v is lacking the monstrousness of the band’s early output, and is distinctly more steeped in traditional songwriting structures than Loveless, but this infusion of sweetness has by now already sealed its own deal by managing to sound so gosh darn lovely without jettisoning the psychedelia. The ensuing “Who Sees You” feels at first like “Come in Alone” if early Teenage Fanclub had had something to do with it – but the more it stomps its monged way through its own fuzzy haze, the dafter a reference point the (also ace) Fannies seems to be.
That “Who Sees You” is bound to satisfy My Bloody Valentine junkies may read as if its inferring rehash on their part, but it wouldn’t be satisfying if it was an outright rip. As it is, there is a mellowness to their maturity that floats by agreeably yet still insists on having those pupil-dilating whirlwinds of guitar swarming around it. “Is This and Yes” shoves a slow yet rushing elation of organs into our lives, then “If I Am” storms in on big swaggering drams before being cast into a thick swarm of wah-ing psych. It’s all mixed rather like it was back in day – or, more accurately, like last year’s remastered reissues – and it’s a fabulously disorienting track, one that only MBV could have made or could ever make.
“New You” finds MBV at their most accessible (think along the lines of Loveless closer “Soon”), Debbie Googe’s big fuzzy stabs of monotone bass thrusting along on a surprisingly funky groove. In its way, this does good by its title by being perhaps the biggest departure on the album so far, resplendent as it is with actual pop songwriting, as much as they try to hide it. It’s gorgeous, and sets the stage nicely for a closing trio of tracks that demonstrate genuine progression.
“In Another Way” begins in wrong-footingly frantic fashion before crashing and tumbling its way through something more reconcilably MBV, but still with a satisfying twist – throttled gulps of scraping guitar and relentlessly powering drums underpin a lush plastic string arrangement, paving the way for “Nothing Is” to wreck the joint like some monstrous Hoedown of an instrumental, albeit one that’s more reminiscent of early MBV in its filthy, murky guitar sound. This is actually quite nuts, and at 3.34 minutes the shortest track on the LP. Its mad twiddly drone gradually intensifies as more of those powerhouse drums are thrashed steadily away, until it almost sounds like it has the trebly hiss of a ’90s club beat (without sounding anything like one, of course).
All that’s left then is for “Wonder 2” to near-drown itself out with whooshes of jet engine and what sounds like a melodically manipulated fog horn, another tumultuous rhythm section propelling the heavenwards ascent of bewildering psychedelic noise-pop – with ‘pop’ very much the least operative word here – into a particularly otherworldly state of bliss. Tame Impala’s Lonerism album of last year might’ve been inspired by these last few tracks had the chronology made that at all possible – but who knows? Perhaps Kevin Parker found himself unexpectedly privy to the plans of his namesake Shields, and took it with the ruthlessness of an opportunist script-writer looking for his big break. An entirely unlikely state of affairs, we’ll grant you.
So, was it worth the wait? Put simply: yes. Will it go down in history? Rocksucker couldn’t possibly say at this juncture, and neither could you – let’s all just live with it for a while and open it up for discussion again come the end of the year. For now, though, an appropriate quailing would appear to be…
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
m b v is out now and available at www.mybloodyvalentine.co.uk